HomeHondurasCortés, Honduras
HONDURAS

Cortés, Honduras

COCAINE / 16 FEB 2021 BY INSIGHT CRIME EN

Cortés is a major organized crime hub. Vast quantities of drugs, arms, and contraband pass through the department’s busy Atlantic port – Puerto Cortés – on a daily basis.

The port is a short distance from the departmental capital, San Pedro Sula, and the border with Guatemala, making it an important transit destination for illicit products, such as cocaine and illegal arms or contraband entering the country by sea.

San Pedro Sula is the center of operations for various criminal groups involved in the drugs and arms trade, human trafficking, and human smuggling.

Criminal Actors

Mara Salvatrucha (MS13): The MS13 operates facilities for measuring out and preparing drugs for local sale on San Pedro Sula’s outskirts. Both the MS13 and its rivals from Barrio 18 have established invisible borders in neighborhoods such as Chamelecón. The gangs have installed checkpoints at the entrances to the communities, used to monitor these divisions. The MS13 mainly exerts influence in the southern part of Chamelecón and the neighborhoods of Morales, San Juan, San José, and San Isidro.

Barrio 18: This gang controls territory in northern Cortés and in the neighborhoods of Suyapa and San Antonio.

Criminal Economies

Arms Trafficking: Cortés is a significant transit point for illicit products, given that it houses Honduras’ main commercial port, and the country’s most important gangs –the MS13 and Barrio 18– have a permanent presence in the industrial city of San Pedro Sula. These groups are heavy consumers of legal and illegal weapons, including high-caliber firearms. Hence, we estimate that at least half of the 500,000 illicit arms that circulate in Honduras transit through Cortés, making arms trafficking a lucrative criminal economy in the department.

Cannabis: The main criminal actors involved in selling cannabis –the MS13 and Barrio 18– have a significant presence in Cortés. Gangs grow expensive types of cannabis in the department and also import it from other countries. Therefore, we estimate that this criminal economy generates significant revenues in the department.

Cocaine: Cortés houses Honduras' main port, and all of the country’s major cocaine trafficking routes pass through the department. Drug trafficking groups are either present or have emissaries in Cortés and use the city of San Pedro Sula as an operational hub. While the police seized only minor amounts of cocaine in Cortés in recent years, we estimate that the cocaine economy is large and lucrative.

Environmental Crime: Puerto Cortés and San Pedro Sula serve as storage, transit, and retail points for trafficked animal species, as well as for illegally extracted timber. This suggests the existence of at least a mid-size economy of environmental crimes.

Extortion: Extortion is rife within the department, generating revenues that reach into the tens of millions of dollars. Victims include hotel owners, taxi drivers, transport workers, bus companies, small businesses, apartment owners, and more.

Human Smuggling: In 2019, approximately 20,000 Honduran migrants were returned to Cortés after being deported from the United States and Mexico, a percentage of those who made the trip. Given the price of hiring a smuggler in the area (roughly $10,000), this appears to be a very lucrative criminal economy, reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars. In addition to Honduran migrants, other Central American nationals, South Americans, Africans, and Asians also transit through Cortés on their way to the United States.

Human Trafficking: Cortés is part of a human trafficking and human smuggling route. Within the department, multiple properties, such as massage parlors and bars, are used as centers for prostitution. Most of the country’s relevant criminal actors have some degree of presence in San Pedro Sula, most notably the MS13 and Barrio 18. Therefore, we estimate that human trafficking is a moderate criminal economy in the department, which generates revenues reaching into millions of dollars.

Sources: This profile is based on a field trip to San Pedro Sula and three field trips to Tegucigalpa during which InSight Crime interviewed representatives of the Attorney General’s Office, military officers, national and local police officers, members of the National Anti-Gang Force (FNAMP), judicial officers, local crime experts, local NGO officers that work in gang-controlled areas, and women’s right activists, most of whom requested anonymity. InSight Crime also drew from information provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Honduran National Police, the Honduran National Statistics Institute, and the local press.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COCAINE / 29 NOV 2019

The discovery of a narco-submarine in Spain has raised questions about where and how these vessels are being used, since…

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 16 MAY 2017

A new study estimates that up to 30 percent of all deforestation in three Central American countries is due to…

HOMICIDES / 19 OCT 2015

Times are tough in Honduras. Worse, many of the country’s challenges are transnational in origin and are beyond the capacity…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…